Estate Planning for Blended Families: Navigating Complex Relationships

estate planning for blended families

A blended family forms when two individuals come together (married or common-in-law) bringing a child/children from previous relationships. They may then have a child/children together. The dynamics of this family arrangement can be complicated, resulting in both rewards and challenges. Financial and/or emotional issues often arise when one of the partners passes, revealing a mix of expectations from the remaining partner, children, and the ex-spouse(s). To reduce conflict, mistrust, and/or discord, it’s important to have open discussions and to develop a detailed and comprehensive estate plan, particularly if ownership of a business is involved. Preparation and communication are key to easing family dynamics. So, what does estate planning for blended families in Canada look like? 

Estate planning tips for blended families:

The following are some estate planning tips to promote harmony in a blended family.

  • Keep estate documents updated: Be aware that separation/divorce does not affect pre-existing beneficiary designations. Ensure all documents are updated to reflect the blended status of your family (RRSPs, pension, insurance, will, etc.). 
  • Establish a mutual wills agreement: This contract between partners prohibits both from changing their will without the consent of the other. Mutual wills restrict the future testamentary freedom of the surviving spouse. 
  • Appoint a trustworthy, reliable executor, someone acceptable to all family members.
  • Consider a prenup: Creating a prenup presents the opportunity to begin communication and negotiation of difficult financial issues, providing protection and certainty for all involved/affected. Ensure the process is collaborative and based on mediation principles. 
  • Consider a trust: A trust (a fiduciary relationship that gives the trustee the right to hold title to property/assets for the benefit of a third party/parties) assists in the distribution of assets, solidifying a desired outcome. Tailor the trust to your preferences.
  • Communicate: Open, meaningful, ongoing dialogue with your partner and beneficiaries provides a means for making adjustments as circumstances change. 
  • Establish a power of attorney: If a partner is alive but unable to make decisions (personal care, property, business), a power of attorney may ensure that the new spouse/common-in-law partner is in charge of decision-making, reducing conflict with the ex-spouse and/or children. 
  • Seek advice: Obtain advice/assistance regarding the unique tax and law challenges of your blended family situation. Your chartered professional accountant can help guide you through the twists, turns, and pitfalls of estate planning (capital gains tax, estate-related taxes, and other expenses), particularly when ownership of a business is involved. 

A blended family often results in complicated estate planning challenges, particularly when a business is involved. Open and honest communication with all involved helps ensure harmonious relations. Keep beneficiary designations and documents current. Obtain advice to ensure that your estate plan meets your needs and desires. Consider tax and family law obligations. Contact your chartered professional accountant for assistance. 

Need help with business estate planning? Looking for advice and/or guidance? Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants (based out of Calgary and Edmonton) serve clients across Canada/United States, providing quality assurance, succession, and tax planning services for privately owned and managed companies. A detailed, tactful understanding of estate planning assists your company. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.

What to Remember for This Tax Season

What to Remember for This Tax Season - Cook & Company - Chartered Professional Accountants - Featured Image

Tax season is upon us and it’s a busy time! Each business must undertake the process of reporting earnings and paying income tax on business profits. It’s important to report income in the fiscal period you earn it, no matter when you receive it. It’s crucial to deduct business expenses but only if you incur them to earn income and if you are able to back up the claim. With filing deadlines approaching, what do you need to remember for this tax season? The following are some reminders for your business in this hectic time. 

  • File on time: If you wish to receive the benefits/credits your business is entitled to and avoid penalties, it’s important to file your return on time. File your return no later than six months after the end of each tax year. The tax year of a corporation is its fiscal period. If your business’ tax year ends on the last day of a month, file the return by the last day of the sixth month after the end of the tax year. If your tax year ends on March 31, your filing due date is September 30. If your tax year ends on August 31, your filing due date is February 28. If your tax year ends on September 23, your filing due date is March 23. When a filing due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday recognized by the CRA, your return is considered on time if the CRA receives it or if it is postmarked on or before the next business day. For more information, go to Important dates for corporations.
  • File online: To receive your refund faster, sign up for a direct deposit and file your return online through NETFILE-certified tax software or the services of an authorized service provider who can use the CRA EFILE service
  • Claim all benefits, credits and deductions: Your business may be able to claim tax deductions, credits and/or expenses on your return. Top deductions for business owners include advertising expenses, business-use-of-home expenses, meals and entertainment, office expenses and vehicle expenses.
  • Remit GST: You may be required to register and file a GST/HST return. Your GST due date depends on your tax filing period. Some businesses choose to pay their GST/HST quarterly or annually. For more information on how to (pay) your GST/HST, the CRA has additional guidance here.
  • Reduce adjustments: To reduce the number of changes made to your business return each year, find information about common adjustments, including how to get forms, guides and other publications.
  • Pay on time: To avoid interest charges, pay any balance owed by the deadline. If this is not possible, work out a payment arrangement with the CRA. 
  • Keep receipts/documents: In case you are selected for reviewkeep all receipts/documents for at least six years. If you’re self-employed or a sole proprietor, you may need to keep some of your business records for a longer period of time.
  • Claim non-capital losses: If your expenses exceed business income in any year, use this loss to decrease your income tax bill. The loss can be carried back three years or carried forward up to 20 years. Your Chartered Professional Accountant can help you decide if it makes sense to use the non-capital loss in the current tax year, carry the non-capital loss back to recover income tax you’ve already paid or carry it forward to offset a larger tax bill.
  • Strategize your capital cost allowance: Instead of deducting the cost of the depreciable property you’ve acquired in your business in a particular year, deduct this cost over a period of years through a capital cost allowance claim. You can use as much or as little of this claim in any year and carry any unused portion forward to help offset a larger income tax bill in the future. Also, consider buying and selling your assets at the right time. Buy new assets before the end of your fiscal year and sell old assets after the current fiscal year.
  • Manage RRSP and TFSA contributions: Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Tax-Free Savings Accounts are excellent income tax deductions for small-business owners. Since some or all of your allowable RRSP contributions can be carried forward into subsequent years, you’re better off saving RRSP contributions for years in which you expect a high income. If you’ve maxed out your RRSP contributions and need a tax-free place to put cash or investments, the TFSA is a good choice. TFSAs allow you to shelter savings and investment income from taxes. Income and capital appreciation from stocks, bonds, or other interest-bearing instruments are tax-free inside a TFSA. Your Chartered Professional Accountant can help you maximize savings using RRSPs and TFSAs.

Business taxes are complex and complicated. Consider hiring a CPA. Most businesses prefer to have a certified professional accountant complete their Canadian income tax returns. This saves time and effort, provides assurance of accuracy and increases your chances of efficient tax planning. 

Need help with your business’ tax returns? Looking for business advice? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. We are based out of Calgary, Alberta, serving clients across Canada and the United States. We provide high-quality tax, assurance and succession planning services for a wide variety of privately-owned and managed companies. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Strategies to Overcome a Cash Flow Crisis

Overcome a Cash Flow Crisis

Even thriving, profitable businesses can have cash flow problems if payables (amounts due to vendors or suppliers) are due before receivables arrive (money due to a firm for goods or services delivered or used). In fact, 29% of businesses fail because they run out of cash. During a cash flow shortage, a business may not have enough money to cover payroll or other operating expenses. It’s imperative that businesses have a strategy or plan in place to overcome a cash flow crisis.

Strategies for avoiding and/or overcoming a cash flow crisis:

There are a number of strategies and approaches that can help companies correct and or avoid cash flow difficulties.

  • Lease: When leasing (supplies, equipment, real estate) you pay in small increments helping to improve cash flow. Also, lease payments are a business expense and can be written off on your taxes. 
  • Offer discounts for early payment: Create an incentive for customers to pay their bills ahead of time by offering an early payment discount. This is a win for you and your customers.  
  • Obtain short-term loans for working capital: Short-term loans are borrowings undertaken for a short period to meet immediate monetary requirements. They support a temporary business capital problem. Though they have a higher interest rate, they’re easy to get approved and are less expensive than most long-term options.
  • Use a business line of credit: A line of credit is an arrangement between a bank and a customer that establishes a preset borrowing limit that can be drawn on repeatedly. Borrowers pay interest on the outstanding balance and not on the entire credit line. Interest rates are often more favourable.
  • Try business credit cards: Credit cards provide smaller limits than short-term loans and lines of credit but are easy to obtain and sometimes offer reward options on purchases. Use them for small purchases and operational needs.
  • Conduct customer credit checks: Before signing up a new customer, conduct a credit check. If the client’s credit is poor, assume you won’t be receiving payment on time. If you decide to opt for the sale, set a high-interest rate on overdue payments.
  • Form a buying coop: Many suppliers give discounts to firms who buy in bulk. Find like-minded companies willing to pool cash in order to lower prices with suppliers. 
  • Improve inventory: Goods you buy that aren’t moving at the same pace as your other products hurt your cash flow. Reduce them or get rid of them.
  • Invoice immediately: Automate your invoicing system to reduce the number of errors and improve the speed of invoicing. Provide easy-to-read invoices with clearly stated terms.
  • Use electronic payments: This allows you to pay a bill on the actual due date, increasing the time before cash flows out of your business.
  • Negotiate better terms: Maintain friendly, regular communication with suppliers so you can negotiate better terms. Offer early payment for a discount or negotiate extended payment options.
  • Increase pricing: Experiment with pricing to find the perfect number; the limit of what customers are willing to pay for your products and/or services.
  • Ask new customers for a deposit or partial payment up-front, rather than billing the entire amount due in a single invoice after services have been rendered or products have been delivered.
  • Focus on past due accounts: Identify past due clients and make phone calls. Ask for partial payments.
  • Make payment convenient by offering additional methods (credit card, electronic, mobile).
  • Raise investor capital: Bring in new business partners by selling equity.
  • Reduce expenses: Prioritize company expenses. Eliminate unnecessary expenses and only spend on the costs that keep you operational and generate revenue. Shop around to see if there are cheaper options available for phones, internet, and third-party information technology.
  • Sell non-essential assets: Although this is a temporary fix, it’s a quick and effective way to raise some cash when you’re in a bind.
  • Pre-sell products or services: Encourage sales sooner by pre-selling. It’s a way for consumers to plan ahead. 
  • Finance purchase orders: If you’re a manufacturing or merchandising company and you require a significant amount of cash to fulfill your orders, financing purchase orders may be helpful. The financing company pays the vendor so you can acquire the merchandise/inventory you need to fulfill the order. This allows you to take large orders that you don’t yet have the cash to fill.
  • Turn down, shift or postpone work to manage the volume of business for consistency over time. Offer good clients a discount for postponing their work, order or service. This will not be a viable strategy for companies with strong seasonal business (retailers, accountants, etc.).
  • Invoice factoring involves selling your invoices (an asset) to a factoring company. Instead of waiting 15, 30 or 60 days for your money, your business gets payment upfront.
  • Hire an accountant: A chartered professional accountant will have the knowledge and experience to offer you creative solutions to your cash flow problems. 

Working capital is the fuel that powers small businesses. Managing cash flow is critical to running a profitable long-term business. Constantly look for new ways to improve cash flow management in your company.

Looking for ways to examine and improve your cash flow? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, Cook and Company use their experience and expertise to help your business. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

What You Should Know About Commission Income in Canada

Commission Income Canada

Commission employees in Canada are a specific category of taxpayers under the Income Tax Act. They have the option of deducting a broader range of expenses from their gross income. The sales expenses incurred by a commission employee are only deductible against the commission portion of the employment income and the amount cannot exceed the commission that is received by the taxpayer during the year. 

What is commission income? 

Commission income is usually a percentage of sales revenues, but it could also be a flat rate based on the sales commission agreement between the owner of a product and the seller of that product. Sharing the earnings means the owner receives less money from each unit, but may actually earn more money overall as a number of people are marketing the product for the owner.

Who qualifies as a commission employee?

Commission employees earn commission income or a combination of salary and commission. At least part of their income is based either on sales or another kind of achievement. To qualify as a commission employee, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • As part of your employment contract, you must cover the cost of your own expenses
  • You are normally required to work away from your employer’s place of business
  • You are paid a portion or all of your earnings in commissions, based either on volumes of sales or on contacts you negotiated
  • You do not receive any non-taxable allowances for travelling, such as a kilometre allowance
  • You receive a form T2200, Declaration of Conditions of Employment, annually, which is completed and signed by your employer

Examples of commission jobs/positions:

  • Sales engineers: Sales engineers sell advanced technology and/or services to businesses. They may also help in the research and development of these products. 
  • Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell products to private companies and government agencies. They assist clients in understanding and selecting products, negotiate prices and prepare sales contracts.
  • Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents buy and sell securities (ie: stocks, bonds) and commodities (ie: gold, corn). They monitor financial markets, advise companies and sell securities to individual buyers.
  • Advertising sales representatives sell advertising space for online, broadcast, and print media platforms to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, maintain customer accounts and make sales presentations.
  • Insurance sales agents sell one or more types of insurance (life, health, property, etc.). They contact potential clients, explain the features of policies, help customers choose plans, manage policy renewals and maintain records.
  • Travel agents plan, book, and sell travel for individuals and groups. They book transportation, lodging and activities.
  • Financial advisors assess the financial needs of individuals to help them make important decisions regarding taxes, insurance and long or short-term investment options. Advisors interface with clients to understand their financial goals, perform financial analyses and calculations and make recommendations for meeting those goals. 
  • Sales consultants help companies sell products or services to target customers. They meet with clients, conduct research, analyze market statistics, identify existing issues and assess opportunities for strategic intervention. They create marketing strategies to promote products, advise companies on how to best execute their promotional campaigns and are responsible for making recommendations on how to train sales representatives and increase sales within retail locations.
  • Brokers facilitate large-scale business transactions. They serve as intermediaries between customers and sellers and are responsible for advising clients on how to make successful business investments regarding real estate, stocks, mutual funds land, insurance and more. 
  • Sales managers are leading members of sales teams. They provide guidance, mentorship and training for sales representatives and agents. Sales managers are responsible for setting goals, quotas and crafting successful sales plans to meet company targets while staying within budget.

What employers of commission employees need to know:

  1. If you pay commissions at the same time you pay salary, add this amount to the salary, then use the Payroll Deductions Online Calculator, the Payroll Deductions Formulas (T4127), or the manual calculation method found in Payroll Deductions Tables (T4032).
  2. If you pay commissions periodically or the amounts fluctuate, you may want to use the bonus method to determine the tax to deduct from the commission payment. See Bonuses, retroactive pay increases or irregular amounts to find out how to do this.

What expenses can a commission employee claim?

There are a variety of expenses that commission employees can claim on Form T777, Statement of Employment Expenses when they file their personal income tax return. Sales expenses are deductible only against the commission portion of an employee’s income. 

  • accounting fees
  • legal fees
  • costs for business cards, promotional gifts, cellphones, and computers 
  • a portion of the costs associated with work-related transportation including fuel, maintenance, insurance, registration fees, parking, and any interest or leasing costs
  • 50% of food and beverage costs for themselves (not clients) if they are away from the office for over 12 hours at a time
  • Costs of entertaining clients except for golf club and membership fees
  • advertising and promotions
  • accounting fees
  • Capital Cost Allowance 
  • work space-in-the-home expenses
  • home insurance and property taxes when claiming home-office expenses
  • salary of an assistant
  • lodging
  • parking costs
  • supplies
  • licensing fees
  • monthly home internet access fees
  • office rent
  • training costs

How are claims supported?

To support your claims as a commission employee you must keep all receipts, cancelled cheques, invoices, credit card statements and other documentation that supports your claims. Your records must include your name and address, the name and address of the seller, a full description of the product/service purchased and any GST paid on the purchase. Automobile expenses must be supported by a log that shows the total number of kilometres driven for employment purposes through the use of odometer readings. 

If your company employs commission workers but you find the rules and regulations regarding payroll and taxes confusing, you’re not alone! Contact your CPA for assistance. They can help you navigate the complexities and assist you with source deduction planning and remittance.

Need help with the tax complexities associated with commission employees? Contact Cook and Company Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, we use our experience and expertise to assist you, making tax time a breeze. Contact us to request a meeting.

Investing: FAQ’s

Investing FAQs

With low-interest rates for savings accounts and a high rate of inflation, saving is no longer adequate to ensure financial security. You need to make your money work for you by investing it. However, the idea of investing can seem intimidating. If you’re just beginning your journey of investing and have some hesitation, read on for our answers to the most frequently asked questions about investing. 

What is the difference between saving and investing?

Saving is the practice of putting money aside for future use (mortgage payments, emergencies, retirement). Investing involves putting your money to work for you (through stocks, bonds, property, mutual funds, etc.) with the intention of increasing its value over time.

Why should I invest?

Investing allows you to grow your wealth and meet your financial goals (purchasing a home, preparing for retirement, building an emergency fund). It can also minimize your tax liability. Before choosing where to invest you need to balance your potential gains with the risk involved. You may choose very safe investment options (ie: GICs) medium-risk choices (ie: corporate bonds) or high-risk picks (ie: REITs). It’s important to have a variety of investment types in order to create a safe, well-rounded, diversified portfolio.

When should I invest?

The longer you invest, the less impact the short-term ups and downs of the market have upon your return. Consider investing as soon as you can. 

How much should I invest?

Invest the maximum amount that you can comfortably afford. Pay off your high-cost debt, set aside an emergency fund, provide for living expenses and short-term goals. Then invest the rest.

Is investing risky?

All investments carry some risk. The goal is to manage the risks. Have a plan and diversify your portfolio. Divide your money among many types of investments based on your risk tolerance and timeline. 

What do I need to consider?

There are a number of factors to keep in mind; your risk tolerance, your timeline (thinking about your future needs for money), your knowledge of investing, your financial situation and how much you can realistically invest. 

What are the different types of investment strategies?

  • Growth investing strategies are most suitable if you are a long-term investor and are willing to withstand market ups and downs. They involve investing in growth stocks; young or small companies whose earnings are expected to increase at an above-average rate. Growth investment is risky as young and/or small companies are untried.
  • Value investing is an investment strategy that involves picking stocks that appear to be trading for less than their intrinsic or book value. Investors who use this strategy hope the stock price will rise as more people come to appreciate the true intrinsic value of the company’s fundamental business.
  • Momentum investing involves buying stocks experiencing an uptrend with the belief that they will continue to do so. This investment strategy often uses a data-driven approach to trading, looking for patterns in stock prices to guide purchasing decisions.
  • Dollar-cost averaging is the practice of making regular investments in the market over time and can be used with any of the above methods. This disciplined approach is particularly powerful when you use automated features that invest for you.

Does age affect which investment strategy I should choose?

Goals and strategies for investment often shift with age. Young investors with a long timeline might feel comfortable with risky investments. Older investors often focus on preserving their savings for retirement and tend to emphasize diversification and dollar-cost averaging.

What are the most common types of investments?

  • Stocks: Companies sell shares of stock to raise money for start-up or growth. When you invest in stocks, you’re buying a share of ownership in a corporation. You’ve become a shareholder. Investment returns and risks for stocks vary, depending on factors such as the economy, the political scene, the company’s performance and other stock market factors.
  • Bonds: When you buy a bond, you’re lending money to a company or governmental entity, such as a city, province or country. Bonds are issued for a set period of time during which interest payments are made to the bondholder. At the end of the set period of time (maturity date), the bond issuer is required to repay the face value of the bond (the original loan amount).
  • Mutual funds pool cash from investors to buy stocks, bonds or other assets offering investors an inexpensive way to diversify. They are operated by professional money managers, who allocate the fund’s assets and attempt to produce capital gains or income for the fund’s investors. A mutual fund’s portfolio is structured and maintained to match the investment objectives stated in its prospectus.
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are like mutual funds in that they pool investor money to buy a collection of securities, providing a single diversified investment. They can be structured to track anything from the price of an individual commodity to a large and diverse collection of securities. The difference from mutual funds is how ETFs are sold. Investors buy shares of ETFs just like they would buy shares of an individual stock.
  • Real estate: Traditional real estate investing involves buying a property and selling it later for a profit, or owning property and collecting rent as a form of fixed income. Another option is to invest in a REIT. A real estate investment trust (REIT) is a company that owns, operates, or finances income-generating real estate. Modelled after mutual funds, REITs pool the capital of numerous investors making it possible for individual investors to earn dividends from real estate investment without having to buy, manage, or finance any properties themselves. 
  • Annuities: An annuity is a contract between you and an insurance company in which the company promises to make periodic payments to you, starting immediately or at some future time. You buy an annuity either with a single payment or a series of payments called premiums.
  • Guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) is a deposit investment sold by Canadian banks and trust companies. People often purchase them for retirement plans because they provide a low-risk fixed rate of return and are insured, to a degree, by the Canadian government. 
  • Cryptocurrency is a kind of digital electronic-only currency that is intended to act as a medium of exchange. It’s become popular in the last decade, with Bitcoin becoming the leading digital currency. Cryptocurrency is good for risk-seeking investors who wouldn’t mind if their investment goes to zero in exchange for the potential of much higher returns.
  • Life insurance products are often a part of an overall financial plan. They come in various forms, including term life, whole life and universal life policies. 

Investing is a great way to build your wealth over time. There is a range of investment options, from safe lower-return assets to riskier, higher-return ones. You’ll need to understand the pros and cons of each investment option and how they fit into your overall financial plan in order to make an informed decision. While it seems daunting at first, many investors manage their own assets while others work through a brokerage account.

Looking for investment advice for your business? Contact Cook and Company Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, we use our experience and expertise to assist you. Contact us to request a meeting.

Why Should I See my Accountant in January?

Accountant in January

It’s only January. There’s lots of time before you need to think about tax deductions and filing business taxes. Or, is there? Contacting your certified professional accountant in January is wise. It gives you time to consider and discuss all possible deductions. It gives your accountant time to maximize your deductions and minimize your taxes. Tax laws change constantly. Your accountant will stay abreast of changes and, if given adequate time, may find new tax credits you’re eligible to claim. The health of your business could depend upon it! Contacting your accountant in January has many advantages:

  • Reduce stress: Last-minute tax preparations reduce potential tax planning and create unnecessary stress. Tax minimization requires careful preparation, planning and time. Do your business and yourself a favour and contact your accountant in January. Save yourself from stress and headaches by tackling the problem in advance.
  • Keep your accountant informed: Your accountant can help mitigate losses and solidify successes. To provide these services, they need all the facts. Contact your CPA in January and let them know about any changes in your business (new product line, second location, switching of banks, equipment purchases, etc.) so that they can help plan for the future of your business. 
  • Manage cash flow: Cash flow problems can spiral out of control. Manage your cash flow problems by talking to your accountants. They can help you maintain a healthy cash flow all year. 
  • Keep a handle on growth: An professional accountant has experience handling both revenue growth and capacity growth. They can tell you if you need more customers or if you are unprepared to handle more clients. They can assist your business with financial advice and planning.
  • Stay ahead of changes: Changes to regulations and tax codes are constantly occurring. To stay competitive and receive all possible benefits, you need the help of your accountant. They will ensure compliance with all tax changes.
  • Handle transitions: Changes in your life (inheritance, marriage, divorce, new partners/investors) have accounting and tax implications. Your CPA can help you handle these transitions effectively.
  • Ease budgeting for tax payments: Filing your tax return early gives you information on what you owe the government and an opportunity to plan a payment strategy for your tax bill.
  • Ensure all items are included: Contacting your CPA in January gives you plenty of time to find important or misplaced records and receipts. No last-minute unpleasant surprises!
  • Lower accountancy fees: Take advantage of the lower rates afforded by many professionals during off-peak months to save your bank balance and your stress levels.

Gather all of your business’s essential reports and documents in early January, every year. Include your previous year’s return to help pinpoint your past data and compare it to your present information. Contact your CPA and let them help properly prepare your tax return in a timely manner. By making an appointment to see your accountant in January, you can conquer one of your biggest challenges, filing your business tax return accurately and on time. 

For all your tax needs contact Cook and Company Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, we can use our experience and expertise to make tax time a breeze. Contact us to request a meeting.

All About Deductible Business Expenses in Canada

Deductible Business Expenses

It may seem distant, but tax season will soon be upon us! It’s time to gather your receipts and organize your documents in preparation for filing your business tax return. Sole proprietorships use the same tax schedule as individuals, so returns are due on April 15. If your business is a corporation or a partnership, the return is due on March 15. Canada Revenue Agency offers a number of tax deductions to business owners. Some are deductible at 100% while you may only claim a portion of others. The following are some deductions you’ll want to keep in mind as you file your business taxes this year. 

  • Capital cost allowance: When your business purchases items such as buildings, computers, computer equipment, vehicles and/or a franchise, you can depreciate these articles over time providing a tax benefit for several years.
  • Bad debts are debts that remain unpaid after you have exhausted all means to collect. The CRA allows you to claim bad debts except those which are for a mortgage or resulting from a conditional sales agreement.
  • Start-up costs are costs incurred preceding the start of business operation and can be claimed as an expense. 
  • Fees, licenses and dues: You can claim fees for professional licenses, professional service fees and professional association fees (membership in a trade or commercial association).
  • Use of home expenses: If you operate your business from home, you can claim a portion of the following: interest on your mortgage, electricity costs, home insurance and heating costs. 
  • Delivery, freight and express: You can claim fees for services such as mail and delivery.
  • Fuel costs: You can deduct the cost of fuel (gasoline, diesel, propane) motor oil and lubricants used in your business. This does not include fuel used in your motor vehicle. 
  • Insurance: You can deduct all business insurance policies such as general business liability, business property insurance, business interruption insurance and fire insurance. You cannot deduct the insurance for your motor vehicle or your life insurance premiums.  
  • Interest and bank charges: You can write off any interest you have incurred on money borrowed for business purposes or to acquire property for business purposes and bank charges which are given when processing your payments.
  • Maintenance and repairs: You can deduct the cost of labour and materials for any minor repairs or maintenance done to property you use to earn business income.
  • Management and administration fees:  You can deduct any fees you paid to have your assets and investments managed.
  • Meals and entertainment:  When you attend a convention, conference, or similar event you can claim up to 50% of the cost for food, beverages, plane tickets, hotel rooms and gratuities. When you take a client to an entertainment or sporting event, you can claim 50% of the cost of tickets, entrance fees, cover charges, food, beverages, gratuities and room rental for a hospitality suite.
  • Motor vehicle expenses: If you incur expenses through the use of your personal vehicle for business purposes, you can claim those expenses by keeping an accurate log of use. If your business owns a vehicle or a fleet of vehicles, you can claim fuel, insurance, parking, repairs and maintenance. 
  • Legal, accounting and other professional fees: You can deduct the fees you incurred for external professional advice and/or services such as accounting and legal fees.
  • Prepaid expenses are expenses you pay ahead of time such as yearly rent and can be claimed.
  • Office expenses can be deducted such as the cost of pens, pencils, paper clips, stationery and stamps.
  • Other business expenses are expenses you incur to earn income that are not included on a previous line of your claim such as disability-related modifications, computer and other equipment leasing costs, property leasing costs, convention expenses, allowable reserves private health services plan (PHSP) premiums and undeducted premiums.
  • Property taxes: You can deduct property taxes you incurred for property used in your business such as taxes for the land and building where your business is located.
  • Rent: You can deduct rent incurred for property used in your business such as rent for the land and building where your business is located.
  • Salaries, wages and benefits: You can deduct gross salaries and other benefits you pay to employees but not a salary paid to yourself or your business partner.
  • Supplies: You can deduct the cost of items your business used indirectly to provide goods or services such as drugs and medication used in a veterinary operation, cleaning supplies used by a plumber, supplies used to manufacture a product or software used to supply a service.
  • Telephone and utilities: You can deduct costs for telephone and utilities (gas, oil, electricity, water, and cable) if you incurred the expenses to earn income.
  • Travel: You can deduct up to 50% of travel expenses incurred to earn business and professional income such as public transportation fares, hotel accommodations and meals.
  • Cloud Computing Service Fees: Cloud computing provides access to business data and applications from anywhere, at any time, on any mobile device and may be claimed as a business expense.
  • Donations: Don’t forget that you can claim donations made to registered charities, registered Canadian amateur athletic associations, registered national arts service organizations, registered Canadian low-cost housing corporations, government bodies, registered municipal or public bodies, registered universities, certain registered foreign charitable organizations and the United Nations. 
  • Advertising: You can deduct expenses for advertising and promotion, including amounts you paid for business cards and promotional gifts. You can also deduct expenses for advertising in Canadian newspapers, on Canadian television, Canadian radio stations and online or digital advertising.


When in Doubt: Check with your accountant or with the Canada Revenue Agency if you’re in doubt about the tax deduction potential of a particular business expense. 

Allowable tax deductions are constantly changing. If you’re not aware of or don’t understand all of the deductions possible, don’t despair! Get in touch with your CPA. No matter what type of business you operate, what size your business is or where you operate from, your CPA will ensure that you receive all the deductions you’re entitled to. Let your CPA help you determine how much you can save this year.

For all your tax needs contact Cook and Company Accountants. Whether you operate a sole proprietorship or a sizable corporation with multiple subsidiaries, we can use our experience and expertise to make tax time a breeze. Contact us to request a meeting.

Should a Sole Proprietor Incorporate?

Should a Sole Proprietor Incorporate?

In Canada, a business can operate as a sole proprietorship or a corporation. Most small businesses initially operate as sole proprietorships and later incorporate. 

What is a sole proprietorship? 

With a sole proprietorship, one person owns the business and makes all the decisions, assumes all the risks, claims all losses and receives all profits. In terms of taxation, the owner/operator and the business are one and the same. The owner pays personal income tax on profits earned. This is the easiest type of business to establish and is a popular choice for contractors, consultants, small businesses, freelancers and other self-employed individuals. A sole proprietor may choose to register a business name, operate under their own name or both.

What is a corporation?

A corporation is a separate legal entity. It can enter into contracts and own property in its own name, separately and distinctly from its owner(s). When forming a corporation, the owner(s) transfer money, property and/or services to the corporation in exchange for shares. To set up a corporation you need to complete articles of incorporation and send the documents to the appropriate provincial, territorial, or federal governments. Corporations have higher administrative costs (set up fees, paperwork) and require the help of professionals to handle complex tax filing requirements.

What are the benefits of incorporating a business?

 Incorporation has many long-term benefits. 

  • Limited liability: Incorporation provides protection to owners and their families by limiting their personal liability. Personal assets of the owner(s) are protected against creditors and legal action taken against the corporation. An individual shareholder’s liability is limited to the amount they invested in the company. 
  • Lower tax rates: Corporations are taxed separately from their owners and at a lower rate than the individual tax rate. Corporations have the benefit of a small business deduction (SBD), further reducing income tax.
  • Income tax deferral: Surplus profit can be reinvested into the business or used for other investments, allowing you to defer personal taxes on withdrawals. You can also receive income from an incorporated business in the form of dividends rather than salary, which will lower your tax bill. 
  • Lifetime capital gains exemption: When you sell a corporation, you’re selling an independent entity with its assets and liabilities. If you make a profit from the sale, the Lifetime Capital Gains exemption (LCGE) could save you from paying taxes on all or part of the profits. Many small business owners incorporate their business for this tax advantage alone.
  • Income splitting: Incorporated businesses can pay dividends to shareholders/spouses/children, lowering the tax bracket of the company. Shareholders do not have to be employees to receive dividends. 
  • Easier access to capital: Corporations can borrow money at lower rates, raise money by selling shares/bonds to shareholders and more easily attract angel investors/venture capitalists. 
  • Continuous existence: You can buy and sell shares of a corporation without affecting the corporation’s existence. It continues to exist even if the shareholders die/leave the business or if the ownership of the business changes. It continues to exist unless it winds up, amalgamates, or gives up its charter. 
  • Increased business: People perceive corporations as more stable than unincorporated businesses. Some clients/customers will only do business with incorporated companies due to liability issues. Sole proprietorships are often overlooked in favour of incorporated businesses.
  • Business name protection: When you incorporate a business, the business name you choose is reserved for your use. If you incorporate your business federally, you have the right to use your business name throughout the country. Sole proprietorships have no business name protection.

As a business grows so too do the tax liabilities and operational risks. These may indicate that it’s time to prep articles of incorporation. Business owners should consult with a lawyer and accountant to determine if the increased costs are offset by the benefits.

Considering incorporating your business? Need advice and/or assistance? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. We are based out of Calgary, Alberta, serving clients across Canada and the United States. We provide high-quality tax, assurance, financial and succession planning services for a wide variety of privately-owned and managed companies. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Home Office Tax Deductions

Home Office Tax Deductions

Many Canadians choose to work from home. Canada Revenue Agency allows these workers to claim home office deductions on their tax forms. However, there are a number of rules regarding these deductions and not all home-based workers qualify.

What qualifies as a home office?

As an employee, if your employer wants/allows you to work from home, then there are home office deductions that may be claimed, provided the arrangement meets one of the two following criteria:

  1. Your home office must be exclusively for working
  2. You must use that space to complete more than 50% of your work

Additional requirements: 

How much can you claim?

The allowed claim for employees is limited to the amount of employment income remaining after all the other employment expenses have been claimed. You cannot create a loss from claiming home office expenses. Excess expenses can be carried forward and in most cases can be applied to future years. 

What can you claim?

To determine the number of deductions you can claim you must separate the expenses between your employment use and non-employment (personal) use of your home.

  • All salaried employees and commission employees can claim:
    • electricity
    • heat
    • water
    • utilities portion (electricity, heat, and water) of your condominium fees
    • home internet access fees
    • maintenance and minor repair costs
    • rent paid for a house or apartment where you live
  • Commission employees can also claim:
    • home insurance
    • property taxes
    • lease of a cell phone, computer, laptop, tablet, fax machine, etc. that reasonably relate to earning commission income

What cannot be claimed?

Salaried employees and commission employees cannot claim:

    • mortgage interest
    • principal mortgage payments
    • home internet connection fees
    • furniture
    • capital expenses (replacing windows, flooring, furnace, etc)
    • wall decorations

Are there any other limitations?

The expenses you can claim are limited when:

    • you work only a part of the year from your home
    • you have multiple income sources

When it comes to income tax, every deduction helps. Whether you file your own taxes or send them to an accountant, you should be informed of what home office expenses can be deducted from your income tax. Ask your CPA whether you meet the CRA’s requirements for home office deductions.

Need advice and/or assistance determining tax deductions for your home office? Contact Cook and Company Chartered Professional Accountants. We are based out of Calgary, Alberta, serving clients across Canada and the United States. We provide high-quality tax, assurance, financial and succession planning services for a wide variety of privately-owned and managed companies. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.